The six men accused of assassinating Gauteng Health official Babita Deokaran have been denied bail.
Johannesburg Regional Court Magistrate Simon Sibanyoni on Monday dismissed their bail application, saying: “There are possibilities that they might not be able to be traced if they don’t come back [to attend their trial]. The interests of justice don’t permit their release on bail. They are all linked to the charges against them,” he said.
A high-ranking official in the financial division of the Gauteng Department of Health and a witness in various graft probes – including the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) investigation into R300 million’s worth of dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders – Deokaran was gunned down outside her home in Mondeor, south Johannesburg, in August, in an apparent hit.
Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Phinda Ndlovu, Siphakanyiswa Dladla, Simphiwe Mazibuko and Sanele Mbhele – were arrested less than a week later, and are facing charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and attempted murder.
They are thought to have been hired hands and made various confessions and admissions immediately after they were nabbed – including that former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was apparently their paymaster – but have since claimed they were tortured and coerced, and that these confessions and admissions were in fact “false”.
Mkhize has also since vehemently denied any involvement.
Charged with schedule six offences, the onus during their bail application was on the accused to show that there were exceptional circumstances permitting their release in the interests of justice.
Sibanyoni on Monday found they had not done so successfully.
“Other than vehemently challenge the admissibility of their confessions and pointing outs, nothing exceptional was put before this court. They failed dismally,” he said.
They had repeatedly argued that the state’s case against them was weak and that their confessions and admissions were essentially the only evidence against them, and that these should in any case be ruled inadmissible.
But Sibanyoni on Monday declined to make a ruling on this issue, saying it was for the trial court to decide. He similarly declined to rule on the accused’s claims that they had initially been denied bail.